The interior minister of the state in which Cologne is located went on the offensive Monday at an extraordinary parliamentary meeting to look into the mass sexual assaults and thefts in the Western German city on New Year's Eve.

Ralf Jaeger, ultimately the employer of North Rhine-Westphalia's police, placed the blame squarely at the feet of the force's management.

"The Cologne police should have reacted to the developments and should have fallen back on additional officers available on New Year's Eve," Jaeger said.

He rejected any responsibility, saying: "It is impossible that a ministry could or would want to intervene in any way in an operative situation."

The world has been appalled by the events of New Year's Eve. More than 500 police complaints - 40 per cent of them related to sexual violence - have been filed in Cologne, with smaller numbers in other cities after large gangs of largely young migrant men assaulted new year revellers.

Members of the special committee in the state parliament in Dusseldorf grilled 54-year-old Jaeger for hours.

The attacks represented a "creeping erosion of the law," "a failure of the state" and it would take a long time before the citizens could trust the authorities again, members of the committee said. One accused Jaeger of letting the situation slip out of his control.

The committee demanded an apology from Jaeger and state Premier Hannelore Kraft, saying their silence to date was a "slap in the face of the affected women."

State Office of Criminal Investigation Director Dieter Schuermann said 237 of the 516 complaints received were of a sexual nature, while there were 19 suspects, all non-German and with no fixed address.

Jaeger said it was irrelevant of what nationality the suspects were for a criminal prosecution. He rejected claims he had asked the police to hush up the fact the suspects were migrants. "We don't want to sugarcoat or justify anything," he said.

But he also warned: "To blanket-label certain groups and stigmatize them as sex offenders would be not only wrong but also dangerous."

The comments add further fuel to an ongoing debate in Germany over the repercussions of Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to allow 1.1 million migrants and refugees mainly from the Middle East to enter the country in 2015.

Monday's special parliamentary committee could lead to a further investigative committee, but the police investigations into the New Year's Eve incidents will take some time.

Meanwhile, politicians are concerned that the attacks and perceived poor security situation will have an impact on next month's Cologne carnival, which usually attracts as many as 1 million people to its main parade.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.